A water softener is a device that is needed in most homes across the U.S. At least 85% off all water supplies in the U.S. are considered hard water. Municipal water supplies, in general, contain a number of minerals which render a water to be “hard”. This type of water contains large amounts of dissolved calcium, magnesium, iron, and a number of other dissolved particles.

Why is hard water considered bad?

Hard water leads to a number of inconveniences in a home. Hard water forces you into conducting more and thorough cleaning and maintenance of your fixtures and appliances. We will now take look into some of the main problems caused by hard water.

  1. Traces on your dishes and faucets – you will definitely see hard water deposits and soap scum on your dishes and your bathroom fixtures. On whatever surface you let the water dry out, it will leave behind a cloudy film. Basically, every consumer report on water softeners in 2018 will testify that this is one of the main issues with hard water.
  2. Your skin will feel it as well. While some icky substances are left behind on fixtures and surfaces, hard water will also make your skin feel a little bit drier and itchy. Soft water will prevent all this
  3. There will be build up in your hot water pipes – the mineral substances in water are the main reason why you see some limescale inside your hot water pipes or shower heads. This also goes for hot water appliances which can be pretty sensitive to hard water. This buildup leads to significant deterioration of the whole water-related infrastructure of your home.
  4. Water heaters are threatened as well – hard water is one of the main causes of lower efficiency of the heating elements in water heaters. Just a light, egg shell thick hardness coating in your water heater will lead to a 20% higher energy requirement to heat your water.
  5. Under deposit corrosion and rust may also occur
  6. Soap and shampoos are not as foamy – hard water can significantly reduce the lather of all hygiene supplies. They will not be as effective and you will notice less foam.
  7. Laundry won’t be as visually pleasing – clothes often feel stiffer after being washed with hard water. They will not be as vibrant and there’s a chance you will see whitish spots on them.

So now that we got all those hard water issues listed above, it is time to see how a softener can help abolish them. Before we move on with some more in-depth information, we will talk about the main benefits of water softening.

The Benefits Of Water Softening Systems

Having a water softener is not only a convenience, it also happens to affect your family budget positively and will lead to good results when it comes to your appliances healthcare. So here they are in no particular order.

  • Appliances’ life will be prolonged – The lack of buildup will always yield a great effect on the functionality of your appliances and devices which use water at home.
  • Energy efficiency improvements – in relation to the previous point, an appliance will definitely use less energy when operational. Your heating bills should be lower but it’s not something you will necessarily feel right away.
  • Reduction in soap and detergent inefficiencies – the functionality of soaps is seriously compromised when mixed with hard water. A softer water will allow your soaps and detergents to be more effective thus reducing the amounts that you require.
  • Surfaces will be spot-free – as mentioned above, you want to remove the cloudy residue which is left behind by hard water. A quick check on some good housekeeping water softener reviews will convince you that faucets can look quite shiny and glossy both on the outside and the inside.

The Most Popular Types Of Water Softeners

Now that we’ve made it clear why water softeners are needed in basically every household, we will become familiar with the types of water softeners you will find out there. By doing so, we will also determine the level of effectiveness of each type and you will better understand which softener might be best for you.

Salt-Based Softeners

  • These are the most popular and pretty much “the classic” type of water softeners you will find out there. There is a wide array of water softeners but salt based water softeners have been proven to be the only cost effective way to soften hard water
  • These devices are also called Ion Exchange Softeners because this is the main process that takes place in the system. We will get into more detail regarding how softeners work but at this point, we will just mention that salt is needed for the “softening” to take place.

Salt-Free Water Softeners

  • Even though the name sounds exciting due to the absence of salt, we need to clarify that the effectiveness of this type of salt free softeners is salt-free. These may be able to be considered water conditioners but they will not soften water. Salt free water softeners will not lower your use of soaps and cleaning agents. Salt free water softeners will not prevent spotting and hardness buildup on wet/dry areas around fixtures. Salt free water softeners will not remove anything from your water. Its has been our “real world” experience that salt free water softeners or “conditioners” actually do nothing to your water.
  • The main goal of those salt free water softeners or water conditioners is to make it hard for the existing minerals to form a buildup inside your pipes. If you cut open a cold water pipe in a home you will find virtually zero hardness buildup. The companies that sell the salt free water softeners claim that their system will keep your water pipes clear of hardness buildup. We can assure you that in many years of plumbing and piping experience, overall, we do not see hardness buildup in piping.
  • There are internet based marketing companies that do a fantastic job marketing salt free water softeners. Unfortunately calling these systems water softeners is completely inaccurate. The Water Quality Association (WQA) defines soft water as water containing 1 grain per gallon of hardness or less. The salt free water softeners do not soften water to less than 1 grain per gallon and for that reason are not water softeners. Buying a product based on inaccurate description and performance capabilities seems wrong to us. For the above reasons we cannot recommend salt free water softeners as they are not effective at softening your water.

Dual Tank Water Softeners

  • Now, these are water softeners that actually consist of two water softener tanks and a brine (salt) tank. Such a system can be considered heavy duty one and it is suitable for households with a lot of water consumption or are typically used in manufacturing processes where soft water is needed 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
  • The main goal of this construction is to always provide you with soft water no matter the time of day or the week. Resin needs to regenerate and this usually happens during the night or after a few gallons of water have been processed. During these very regenerations, however, you cannot enjoy soft water as the water bypasses the system.
  • A dual-tank softener ensures that this never happens. When one of the tanks regenerate, the other one is fully functional and still provides you with softened water. The investment here is typically bigger but in the long-term, you will likely enjoy great results.

Magnetic Water Descalers

  • This is the last type of softener, so to say, but it is also the most ineffective one. Because it is an alternative system, it is also not a very popular one.
  • Magnetic descalers are electrical devices which do not interfere with your piping system. No installation is required, no plumbing is detached and there are no bypass valves and so on. You only have a few wires to coil around your water intake pipes and that’s it. The claims are that the magnetic field created on your water alters the hardness minerals preventing them from attaching to each other and to your pipes, appliances, and fixtures. The Water Quality Association (WQA) has performed testing on these types of devices and has put forth a 64 page studying with results. The results state that there is no scientific evidence that confirms that magnetic type water softeners or conditioners are effective. For that reason, we do not recommend the use of these systems.